Vintage Guitar - January 2018 - open - 114

Barbara Lynn
with Lil' Buck
Sinegal.

T

his is a fascinating,
albeit incomplete,
documentary about a
segment of the blues seldom seen by devotees, let
alone lay people. Director
Daniel Cross uses Bobby
Rush as his focal point
and ad hoc narrator of
sorts. Rush, who was an
amazingly vital 81 when
this was shot in 2014, has
been a star on the chitlin
circuit for five decades,
but gained considerable
visibility when he was featured in Martin Scorsese's
otherwise lame PBS series
The Blues.
Rush's flashy, bootyshaking revue is barely
hinted at; instead, Cross
follows him as he travels
the Delta, crossing paths
with regional stars like
Lazy Lester and Barbara
Lynn and virtual unknowns
such as R.L. Boyce and
Little Freddie King.
Cross lets the musicians
do the talking and playing,
which ranges from masterful (blues-zydeco stalwart "Lil' Buck" Sinegal) to
almost indiscernible (L.C.
Ulmer). What's special
is that we see the blues,
not on a festival stage or
in a showcase nightclub,
but in its own environ-

ment - at Jimmy "Duck"
Holmes' Blue Front Cafe
juke joint, at barbecues, at
a crawfish boil, on porches
and sidewalks, and at a
church-hall reunion bringing together Rush, Sinegal,

Bobby Rush,
Barbara Lynn, Lil'
Buck Sinegal, and
others
I Am The Blues

Lynn, Lester, Carol Fran,
and pianist Henry Gray.
The territory encompasses the North
Mississippi Hill Country,
the Delta, and the
bayous surrounding
Lafayette, Louisiana.
Highlights for guitarists
include Sinegal and Lynn,
both in performance and
interview - the latter
showing off her custom-

VINTAGE GUITAR

114

January 2018

son's Bash & Pop, and teased tracks from
songwriter/frontman Paul Westerberg.
Add to the heap this life shot, a brilliant
recording that preserves the Minneapolis
legends in all their self-effacing high-wire
glory in Hoboken, New Jersey - hot on the
heels of their disastrous (or was it hilarious?) appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
The Mats run through 24 catalogspanning songs and five covers (Sweet,
Kiss, T.Rex, Beatles, Vanity Fair) tossed
in. Slouching toward the implosion for
which the band was (in)famous as a live
act, the set stops short at just the right
amount of high jinks... a few false starts,
flubbed lines, artist-audience banter. And
though the band was touring behind its
critically acclaimed major-label debut,
Tim, the tracks from their earlier, more
punk-inspired releases shine most. That
and lead guitarist Bob Stinson, performing
just months before his ouster.
The greatest feat here may be putting
an exclamation point on the late Stinson's
underappreciated genius for brinksmanship - taking songs (and listeners) to the
edge of dissolution before expertly, if often
wildly, reeling them in. - DP

John
McLaughlin

Live At Ronnie
Scott's
John McLaughlin is one of those
guitarists whose
career converges with great milestones in
jazz and rock. Yes, he has stories; given his
collaborations with artists like Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Carlos Santana, and
Miles Davis, McLaughlin has done it all.
At 75, he's still melting faces in odd
time signatures. His current band, The
4th Dimension, features drummer Ranjit
Barot, keyboardist Gary Husband, and
bassist Etienne M'Bappe'.
If you missed their gig in March at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, you can hear it in all
its visceral splendor. It's a fresh ensemble
playing '70s fusion and newer compositions
while avoiding smooth elevator funk drumming like the plague. This is the real deal.
Classics such as "Meeting Of The Spirits,"
"Miles Beyond," and "Vital Information"
are covered, along with the band's newer
compositions "Gaza City," "El Hombre
Que Sabia," and "Here Come The Jiis."
The band is intense, telekinetic, and fluid,
elevating McLaughlin's soulful note selec-

Photo: Gene Tomko.

BLUES UNSEEN
BUT THRIVING

made James Trussart
copper-top Steelmaster,
engraved with roses and
her autograph. Blues
harpist Lester also
dons an acoustic for an
impromptu rendition of
Merle Haggard's "Sing
Me Back Home," after
which he and Rush agree,
"That's the blues."
Not all artists are
named (swamp-pop
singer/drummer Warren
Storm, for one) or seen
playing (guitarist Classie
Ballou). And the lack
of an actual narrator or
text leaves out pertinent
information. We see Rev.
John Wilkins sing and
play "Prodigal Son" on
acoustic guitar, but the
fact that his father, Rev.
Robert Wilkins, wrote it
and the Rolling Stones
covered it isn't mentioned.
The music of Skip James
(1902-'69) is used for
background and atmosphere, but the reason
- his open-D minor tuning
and high, mournful singing
being a cornerstone of the
"Bentonia" style, named
for his birthplace - is
never given, even though
Holmes is a descendent
of that school, geographically and stylistically.
It seems unlikely that
Cross would assume
that the average viewer
would know such details,
and it's unfortunate that
most won't understand
why they should take
the time to research it.
The film makes obvious
that this is not just music
borne of oppression; it's
music for drinking,
dancing, shucking and
jiving, and even fighting.
And, most encouraging, it shows a younger
generation carrying on the
tradition. - Dan Forte


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